Introduction to Web Internationalization Issues - HTML

The first step in dealing with internationalization and localization is determining your target audience. You will need to find out how many international visitors view your site, and whether targeting them is feasible.You may only need to translate a portion of your site, but translation is obviously an essential first ingredient to localization. Setting aside translation resources is an important early step in your localization efforts.

Translating your Web site
More goes into localization than simply translating from one language to another. One of the more famous examples of how direct translation can actually hurt you is the well known “Got Milk?” campaign, which according to translation experts at The RWS Group translates to “Are you lactating?” in Spanish, which is most likely not the desired message.

For this reason, you should try to find native speakers of any language you are translating to. This can be an expensive proposition, and may not be an option if you run a small site that is only marginally profitable. But if you have already made the decision to localize, it’s important to do it right.

You can also use online translation services, which claims to have 6,000 translators worldwide. There are also service bureaus specializing in translation services, such as the well-known language services company, Berlitz.

If you’re on a tight budget but you need to localize some content, you can try one of the machine-based translation services available, such as those used by some search engines to provide on-the-fly translation of Web pages. One such option is Systran’s Babel Fish, which can be found via AltaVista.

This free service lets you translate a block of text. This is most helpful if your pages are simply written (without slang) and technical in nature, rather than creative or humorous. Humor often doesn’t translate well to other languages. Dry and technical documents translate well when you need to rely on less expensive translation methods.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are translation software environments for large-scale enterprise systems by companies, which offers a global content management system that enables users to use template-driven translation modules. A typical implementation allows translators to replace text values (contained within XSLT variables or parameters, for example) with localized content. These kinds of systems are not inexpensive, but they are very efficient and help streamline the localization process, as well as provide accountability in large-scale operations.

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